Operation Pumpkin festivities will focus on all-things pumpkin, including sculpted pumpkins, a giant pumpkin weigh-off, decorated pumpkins, a Lil’ Miss Punkin contest, a pet parade, a Kid’s Zone and live entertainment all weekend. The seventh annual pumpkin and art festival will return to downtown Hamilton on Friday, Oct. 12 through Sunday, Oct. 14.
Last year, more 35,000 visitors attended Operation Pumpkin over the course of the weekend.
“We still want the festival to grow and continue to draw attention to Hamilton from other counties and states,” said event co-chair Tammy Snyder, who chairs the event with her husband, and event founder, Jason Snyder.
“This is a chance to experience a traditional, fall festival. Guests can come, hang out, and enjoy free activities and see giant pumpkins,” she said.
Festival hours are 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.
The event will feature a pumpkin sculpting competition with professional sculptors from all over the country. Finalists will compete in the pumpkin sculpting competition on Saturday morning at 11 a.m., featuring about five 1,000-pound-plus pumpkins. There also will be about 50 100-pound to 200-pound sculpted pumpkins on display.
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Operation Pumpkin is sanctioned by the Southern Ohio Giant Pumpkin Growers Association (www.sogpg.com). With the sanctioned event, there will be giant pumpkin weigh-offs, which will begin on Friday afternoon. Competitors will have pumpkins on display that weigh up to 2,000 pounds, or more, as well as watermelons, tomatoes and long gourds. (The current site record for a pumpkin is 2,043.5 pounds.) The giant pumpkin weigh-off is expected to have 25 to 35 different entries.
“We are rumored to have another record-breaking watermelon this year, and we currently hold the Ohio record,” Snyder said.
The decorated pumpkin display will feature more than 1,500 pumpkins, which are crafted by fourth-grade students from Hamilton-area public and private schools. Free hayrides will be offered in German Village.
The entertainment line-up will include headliners Naked Karate Girls on Friday at 7 p.m.; The Everyday People Band on Saturday at 7 p.m.; and The Newbees on Sunday from 2 p.m.-5 p.m. The festival also will host the annual Lil’ Miss Punkin contest with a crowning on Saturday at 2 p.m. and a Pet Parade on Sunday at noon. Registration for the Pet Parade will start at 11 a.m. Pets (and their owners) can also compete in a costume contest with prizes.
A new Kid’s Zone will take up Rotary Park and part of North Second Street. A local retailer will offer free crafts on Saturday, starting at 11 a.m. The Fitton Center for Creative Arts will offer free crafts throughout the weekend. The area will be packed with things for children and families to do, including bouncy houses, carnival games, a straw maze, entertainers from the Cincinnati Circus company and more. There will be a fire performer on Friday night and a glow performer on Saturday at dusk (around 6:30 p.m.) The Lane Libraries Bookmobile will be on site as well as an array of amusement rides. There will also be a Fastball Pitch Fundraiser.
More than 100 food and artisan vendors will participate. Local artisans will include specialized jewelry, distinctive artwork, vintage clothing, antique and re-purposed furniture and more. Wine and beer will be available at the beer tent and at several smaller purchase stations.
Several hundred volunteers help to put on the festival.